Luray Caverns

The Luray Caverns are located in the Shenandoah Valley just east of the Allegheny Mountain Range in Luray, Virginia. Discovered in 1878, the original opening was a hole that was dug just large enough for the smallest 2 of the 5 man discovery crew to squeeze through. They slid down a rope and explored by candlelight. They discovered the caverns because of a sinkhole that had cool air coming from it.

Portions of the Caverns are open to the public and well lit. The temperature inside the caverns is only 54 °F. Make sure to bring a jacket along for the visit.

Luray Caverns is home to a great many natural and man-made wonders.

    The hedge maze contains 1500 Dark American Evergreens which create a half-mile path for visitors.
    The Leaning Column, undermined and tilting like the Tower of Pisa
    The Organ, a large shield formation
    The Elfin Ramble, a vast bed of disintegrated carbonates left by the water in its retreat through the great space
    The Empress Column is a stalagmite 35 feet high, rose-colored, and elaborately draped.
    The Double Column, two fluted pillars side by side, one 25 ft the other 60 feet high
    The Pluto's Ghost, a pillar, is a ghostly white
    Brands Cascade is a particularly fine cascade. It is 40 feet high and 30 feet wide, and is a waxy white.
    Saracen's tent is considered to be one of the most well-formed draperies in the world.

Cave Hill is popular for it's pits and oval hollows. It is 927 feet above sea level. The underground cavern system at Luray has many different formations such as columns, mud flows, stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, and mirrored pools.

One of the best known formations in the caverns is probably the Great Stalacpipe Organ. Formations at Luray Caverns are white if the calcium carbonate is in its pure form. Other colors are a result of  impurities in the calcite. These impurities are a result of elements being absorbed from the soil or rock layers. Reds and yellows are from iron, blacks are from manganese dioxide, blues and greens are from solutions of copper compounds. Luray Caverns is still an active cave where new formation deposits grow at about one cubic inch every 120 years.

There are different amounts of water in the cavern during different seasons. Because of this, some of the stalactite tips are under water long enough to develop crystals during the wet seasons and get coated over again in the drier season.

Drapery formations can be found in all major rooms in the cavern. They ring like bells when struck heavily by the hand. They form when carbonates, deposited by water, trickle down a sloping and corrugated surface.

In Hoveys Balcony, sixteen alabaster scarfs hang side by side. Three of the sixteen scarfs are white, thirteen are riged and seem to contain every possible shade of brown.

An interesting story about the caverns actually takes place above them. Limair Sanatorium, which was erected on the summit of Cave Hill, was billed as the first air-conditioned home in the United States.

It was 1901 when a shaft five feet in diameter was sunk down into a cavern chamber. A 42-inch fan powered by a 5 horsepower electric motor was installed and the cool, supposedly pure air of Luray Caverns was forced through the rooms. The air could be turned over throughout the entire house about every 4 minutes. The house interior was a comfortable 70 degrees even on the hottest summer day.